Bi-Partisan Group of Legislators Introduce California Right to Rescue Legislation

PRESS RELEASE

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Photo by office of Senator Steve Glazer

(Sacramento, CA) Assemblymembers Miguel Santiago and Marc Steinorth, in conjunction with Senator Steve Glazer, Assemblymember Bill Quirk, and 13 other co-authors announce introduction of new legislation aimed at protecting Good Samaritans in California.

On May 24, the Majority Whip of the State Assembly, Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles), and Assemblymember Marc Steinorth (R-Rancho Cucamonga), in conjunction with Senator Steve Glazer (D-Orinda) and Assemblymember Bill Quirk (D-Hayward), announced the introduction of Assembly Bill 797, the California Right to Rescue Act.  The bill, co-sponsored by Los Angeles County District Attorney, Jackie Lacey, and The Humane Society of the United States, protects citizens from liability for necessary actions taken in good faith to rescue an animal from a hot car.

Last week, in anticipation of the measure being introduced, Assembly Democrats and Republicans both participated in the Hot Car Challenge to see how long they could withstand the interior of a parked, closed car as temperatures rose as an example of the peril animals face during warm months.  Every year, thousands of animals succumb to heatstroke in hot, unattended vehicles.  The facts are staggering:

  • Even on an 80° day, the temperature in a parked car can reach 120° in just 10 minutes.
  • On a 90° day, the interior temperature of a vehicle can rise as high as 150°.

As the legislators learned, these temperatures are unbearable for any person, but especially for animals who do not have sweat glands like humans.

Many concerned citizens come across animals who are left in vehicles during warm months and in need of rescue, but aren’t sure what to do and fear being sued and/or arrested if they take unauthorized steps to free an animal.  AB 797 allows a Good Samaritan to break into a vehicle to rescue an animal if specific conditions are met he/she follows various steps prior to entering a vehicle.  Those steps include:

  • Check that the car cannot be opened.
  • The animal must be suffering harm or in imminent danger.
  • Contact law enforcement.
  • Remain with animal in safe location until law enforcement arrives.
  • Don’t use more force than necessary to rescue the animal.

According to AB 797, if these steps are followed, Good Samaritans would then be protected from criminal prosecution of liability for civil damages.

California law already makes it illegal to leave an animal unattended in a parked vehicle. State law has also long protected Good Samaritans who rescue children that have been left in vehicles. AB 797 follows legislation recently passed in other states (Florida, Michigan, Ohio*, Tennessee, and Wisconsin) by extending these provisions to people who rescue animals in a similar fashion.

(* = Legislation pending approval by governor.)

“I am proud to be working on this bipartisan effort to end inhumane animal deaths,” stated Assemblymember Santiago. “After participating in the Hot Car Challenge, myself, I cannot even fathom an animal’s ability to withstand those extreme temperatures. AB 797 allows Good Samaritans to safely and carefully rescue animals trapped in hot cars — an issue that is especially poignant as we head into summer in California.”

“The Right to Rescue Act will save lives,” said Assemblymember Marc Steinorth. “We all know how hot our cars get sitting in the heat, but so many people don’t recognize that leaving your dog in the car for even a few minutes in these conditions can be fatal. More than anything, we hope that AB 797 will raise awareness of this danger so pet owners remember to leave their dogs at home.”

“Our strongest hope is that this legislation will raise awareness about the dangers of leaving animals unattended in hot vehicles. We know people don’t mean to put their animals in jeopardy, but they often don’t understand just how quickly the situation becomes dangerous and even deadly,” said Jennifer Fearing, who represents The Humane Society of the United States, the San Francisco SPCA and Best Friends Animal Society. “We are grateful that such a strong bi-partisan contingent of state lawmakers see fit to propose protections for Good Samaritans and to provide specific steps needed to assure those protections.”

“Every year, hundreds of animals suffer, and many die, in Los Angeles County from being left in hot vehicles. By the time a citizen spots an animal trapped in a hot vehicle the situation is often dire, and requires immediate action,” said Dan Felizzatto, Deputy District Attorney with Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey’s office. “Because a call of this nature may not be a priority for law enforcement, peace officers may not respond in time. AB 797 provides a legal framework for a Good Samaritan to follow in order to remove an animal from a hot vehicle, without fear of legal repercussions. AB 797 will save lives.”

AB 1674 is slated to be heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee on June 14th.

A fact sheet, including a comprehensive list of co-authors can be found here: AB 797 Fact Sheet.

Videos of the Legislators’ Hot Car Challenges can be seen here: www.mydogiscool.com/AB797.

Here is a look at the Bill:

LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL’S DIGEST

AB 797, as amended, Steinorth. Immunity from civil liability: damaging a motor vehicle: rescue or provision of care for minor or animal. Motor vehicles: rescue or provision of care for animal: civil and criminal liability.
Existing law authorizes a peace officer, humane officer, or animal control officer to take all steps reasonably necessary to remove an animal from a motor vehicle because the animal’s safety appears to be in immediate danger of specified harm. Existing law requires those persons who remove an animal from a vehicle to take the animal to an animal shelter or other place of safekeeping or, if deemed necessary, to a veterinary hospital for treatment, and to leave a notice in the vehicle that notifies the owner of, among other things, the location where the animal may be claimed. Existing law authorizes the owner to claim the animal only after paying all charges that have accrued for the maintenance, care, medical treatment, or impoundment of the animal.
This bill would expand the authorization and requirements applicable to a peace officer, humane officer, or animal control officer described above to include a fire fighter or other emergency responder. The bill would additionally provide that a person may be required to pay for charges that have accrued for the maintenance, care, medical treatment, or impoundment of the animal removed from the vehicle. The bill would require a person who removes an animal from a vehicle under the circumstances described above to immediately turn the animal over to a representative from law enforcement, animal control, or other emergency responder who responds to the scene and would exempt the person from criminal liability for removal of the animal from a vehicle if the person satisfies specified conditions. The bill would exempt a person from civil liability for property damage or trespass to a motor vehicle if the property damage or trespass occurred while the person was rescuing an animal pursuant to these provisions.

(1)Existing law limits the civil liability of a person who in good faith, and not for compensation, renders emergency medical or nonmedical care at the scene of an emergency, as specified.

This bill would prohibit any civil liability or cause of action against a person for damage to a motor vehicle, if the damage was caused while the person was rescuing or providing care to a minor who, or animal that, was located inside the motor vehicle and the person had taken specific steps, including, among others, determining the motor vehicle was locked or there was no reasonable method for the minor or animal to exit the motor vehicle without assistance, and to the extent practicable, contacted a law enforcement agency, fire department, or the emergency 911 telephone number before damaging the motor vehicle.

(2)This bill would declare that it is to take effect immediately as an urgency statute.

Digest Key

Vote: TWO_THIRDSMAJORITY   Appropriation: NO   Fiscal Committee: NO   Local Program: NO  

SECTION 1.

Section 43.100 is added to the Civil Code, to read:

 

43.100.

(a) There shall not be any civil liability on the part of, and no cause of action shall accrue against, a person, including a peace officer, fire fighter, humane officer, animal control officer, or other emergency responder, for property damage or trespass to a motor vehicle, if the damage was caused while the person was rescuing an animal pursuant to subdivision (b) or (d) of Section 597.7 of the Penal Code.

(b) The immunity from civil liability for property damage or trespass to a motor vehicle established by this section does not affect a person’s civil liability or immunity from civil liability for rendering aid to an animal pursuant to Section 597.7 of the Penal Code.

SEC. 2.

Section 597.7 of the Penal Code is amended to read:

597.7.

(a) No A person shall not leave or confine an animal in any unattended motor vehicle under conditions that endanger the health or well-being of an animal due to heat, cold, lack of adequate ventilation, or lack of food or water, or other circumstances that could reasonably be expected to cause suffering, disability, or death to the animal.

(b) (1) This section does not prevent a person from taking all steps that are reasonably necessary to remove an animal from a motor vehicle if the animal’s safety appears to be in immediate danger from heat, cold, lack of adequate ventilation, lack of food or water, or other circumstances that could reasonably be expected to cause suffering, disability, or death to the animal.
(2) If a person described in paragraph (1) removes the animal from a vehicle he or she shall immediately turn the animal over to a representative from law enforcement, animal control, or another emergency responder who responds to the scene.
(3) (A) A person acting under this subdivision, and in accordance with subparagraph (B), is not criminally liable for actions taken reasonably and in good faith in acting in accordance with this subdivision.
(B) Subparagraph (A) applies if the person does all of the following:
(1) Determines the vehicle is locked or there is otherwise no reasonable manner for the animal to be removed from the vehicle.
(2) Has a good faith belief that forcible entry into the vehicle is necessary because the animal is in imminent danger of suffering harm if it is not immediately removed from the vehicle, and, based upon the circumstances known to the person at the time, the belief is a reasonable one.
(3) Has contacted a local law enforcement agency, the fire department, animal control, or the “911” emergency service prior to forcibly entering the vehicle.
(4) Remains with the animal in a safe location, out of the elements but reasonably close to the vehicle, until a peace officer, humane officer, animal control officer, or another emergency responder arrives.
(5) Used no more force to enter the vehicle and remove the animal from the vehicle than was necessary under the circumstances.

(b)

(c) Unless the animal suffers great bodily injury, a first conviction for violation of this section is punishable by a fine not exceeding one hundred dollars ($100) per animal. If the animal suffers great bodily injury, a violation of this section is punishable by a fine not exceeding five hundred dollars ($500), imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding six months, or by both a fine and imprisonment. Any subsequent violation of this section, regardless of injury to the animal, is also punishable by a fine not exceeding five hundred dollars ($500), imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding six months, or by both a fine and imprisonment.

(c)

(d) (1) Nothing in this section shall This section does not prevent a peace officer, fire fighter, humane officer, or an animal control officer animal control officer, or other emergency responder from removing an animal from a motor vehicle if the animal’s safety appears to be in immediate danger from heat, cold, lack of adequate ventilation, lack of food or water, or other circumstances that could reasonably be expected to cause suffering, disability, or death to the animal.
(2) A peace officer, fire fighter, humane officer, or animal control officer who animal control officer, or other emergency responder who removes an animal from a motor vehicle vehicle, or who takes possession of an animal that has been removed from a motor vehicle, shall take it to an animal shelter or other place of safekeeping or, if the officer deems necessary, to a veterinary hospital for treatment. The owner of the animal removed from the vehicle may be required to pay for charges that have accrued for the maintenance, care, medical treatment, or impoundment of the animal.
(3) A peace officer, fire fighter, humane officer, or animal control officer animal control officer, or other emergency responder is authorized to take all steps that are reasonably necessary for the removal of an animal from a motor vehicle, including, but not limited to, breaking into the motor vehicle, after a reasonable effort to locate the owner or other person responsible.
(4) A peace officer, fire fighter, humane officer, or animal control officer animal control officer, or other emergency responder who removes an animal from a motor vehicle shall, in a secure and conspicuous location on or within the motor vehicle, leave written notice bearing his or her name and office, and the address of the location where the animal can be claimed. The animal may be claimed by the owner only after payment of all charges that have accrued for the maintenance, care, medical treatment, or impoundment of the animal.
(5) This section does not affect in any way existing liabilities or immunities in current law, or create any new immunities or liabilities.

(d)

(e) Nothing in this section shall preclude prosecution under both this section and Section 597 or any other provision of law, including city or county ordinances.

(e)

(f) Nothing in this section shall be deemed to prohibit the transportation of horses, cattle, pigs, sheep, poultry or other agricultural animals in motor vehicles designed to transport such animals for agricultural purposes.

SECTION 1.Section 43.100 is added to the Civil Code, to read:

43.100.

(a)There shall not be any civil liability on the part of, and no cause of action shall accrue against, a person for damage to a motor vehicle, if the damage was caused while the person was rescuing or providing care to a minor who, or animal that, was located inside the motor vehicle and the person had done all of the following:

(1)Reasonably believed that the health or well-being of the minor or animal was endangered due to heat, cold, lack of adequate ventilation, or other circumstances that could reasonably be expected to cause suffering, disability, or death to the minor or animal.

(2)Determined the motor vehicle was locked or there was no reasonable method for the minor or animal to exit the motor vehicle without assistance.

(3)Contacted, to the extent practicable, a law enforcement agency, fire department, or the emergency 911 telephone number before damaging the motor vehicle.

(4)Took necessary action, in good faith, to enter the motor vehicle for the purpose of rescuing or providing care to the minor or animal.

(5)Remained with the minor or animal in a safe location, either inside or outside, but reasonably close to, the motor vehicle, to the extent practicable, until a law enforcement officer, fire department personnel, or other emergency responder arrived.

(b)The immunity for civil liability for damage to a motor vehicle provided by this section shall not affect a person’s civil liability or immunity from civil liability for rendering aid to a minor or animal in addition to the aid described by this section.

SEC. 2.

This act is an urgency statute necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health, or safety within the meaning of Article IV of the Constitution and shall go into immediate effect. The facts constituting the necessity are:

In order to limit civil liability against a person who rescues or provides care for a minor or animal reasonably at risk of being endangered inside a motor vehicle during the hottest months of the year, it is necessary for this act to take effect immediately.

 


1 COMMENT

  1. I see a major boom for safe-lite window replacement on the horizon as thousands of windows will shatter in California within the first year after this passes.

    1 Question though.. what if you have a very realistic stuffed animal in your car and someone shatters the window? Can you then hold them liable for willful damage and destruction of private property?

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